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Where to go skiing in the Dolomites

Posted by at 02:16 on Monday 01 March 2010

How to get to the Dolomites
Travelling to the Dolomites overland has never been easier with numerous companies now offering direct transfers from a number of towns. Depending on where you would like to ski you can get the train to either Innsbruck (Austria) or Venice (Italy).

Train to Innsbruck
For information about travelling by train from London St Pancras to Innsbruck, see our detailed journey planner: Travel by train from London to Innsbruck

Once you arrive in Innsbruck, local trains will take you to Brunico, which allows you to access Kron Platz directly.www.trenitalia.it will give you full details of fares and timetables. If you would then like to travel further into the Dolomites local bus services will help you get around or you could just set off from here on your skis…There are also trains every hour from Innsbruck station to Cortina. From Cortina numerous local buses travel between the Dolomites villages.

Train to Venice
For information about travelling by train from London St Pancras to Innsbruck, see our detailed journey planner: Travel by train from London to Venice

Once you arrive in Venice, there is the CortinaExpress bus that will take you directly from the train station to Cortina or you could get a train part of the way and pick up the bus for just the last part of the journey. Alternatively, there is a local bus that passes Venice, Treviso and Belluno railway stations on its way to the Dolomites. It then drops off at Alleghe, Arabba, Corvara, Colfosco, La Villa and San Cassiano, although it does take 5 hours to do the full route and there is only one bus a day! Dolomitibus gives you details of timetables and prices listed in Italian. Look up the number 72 Venezia – S.Cassiano route for details.

The following website offers an insight into the different ways to travel to the Dolomites:
http://www.bellunovirtuale.com/comearrivare_e.html

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Where to go skiing in the Dolomites
In November 2005 I set off for the first time to the Dolomites to work as a resort representative and ski guide for a large tour operator. I had heard little about them and was torn between watching the Winter Olympics in the Western Italian Alps and heading to a new destination. Since that day I have never looked back, and returned year on year to enjoy the stunning views, amazing food and kilometre after kilometre of fantastic skiing. That winter I familiarised myself with the Sella Ronda, a daylong route around the Sella Massive which makes up the largest part of the Super Dolomiti ski area. It covers 4 passes, 4 Ladin valleys and traverses three provinces. But this was not all; the full Dolomiti area is served by 450 lifts covering over 1,220km of pistes. By the end of the season I had clocked up well over 1000km of skiing (the nifty lift pass tells you how far you have skied when you type in your lift pass number to the area website). (Above: Enjoying Val Mesdi with Filippo, Silvia, Francesco and fellow reps, photo: Lucy Bruzzone)

Exploring further a field
It wasn’t until the last few days of my season when fellow reps and myself really got a taste of what the Dolomites had to offer. Venturing out with a mountain guide we began to explore off the beaten track. Filippo our friend and experienced guide took us swooping down the back of the Marmolada glacier, hiked us across the top of the Sella Massive to drop into the steep Val Mesdi valley the other side, and allowed us to experience the thrill of being entirely alone in this vast wilderness. On regular ski holidays it can be easy to forget that these mountains are a natural wonder, when faced with lengthy queues and crowded pistes, but it was not for this reason that in 2009 the Dolomites were nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The sight of the Sassolungo Mountain covered in an icing sugar like coating of snow is one I will always remember. The sheer steepness of the mountains rising as if from nowhere is truly awe-inspiring. It is for this reason that I continue to return, and every year I find something new to explore. The Dolomites have something to offer everyone, from beginners and those looking for luxury in the form of spa hotels, to experienced back country skiers looking to stay away from the crowds, hike up to the top of the mountains and make the most of numerous tight gullies on the way back down. The best part is that there are always fantastic restaurants dotted around serving the local Ladin cuisine. (Above: Hiking across the Sella Massive; photo: Lucy Bruzzone)

Resorts for all
For those looking to make use of the numerous lifts and pistes there are a number of resorts to choose from. Arabba, Selva Val Gardena, Canazei and Corvara are the main resorts around the Sella Ronda along with plenty of smaller ones. Arabba is great for those who want to be able to access the Marmolada glacier, the highest point in the Dolomites, as well as the rest of the Sella Ronda but are not looking for a particularly lively nightlife. Selva boasts a ski school sponsored by Prada and allows you to access to the Alp de Susi area, which is on a high shallow plateau. Canazei is a resort for those looking for a bit of nightlife and is slightly less well connected to the Sella Ronda but has its own great ski areas all around. Corvara is one of the chi-chier resorts with some fabulous hotels and gentler slopes surrounding it, so a great place for beginners. But there is no need to limit yourself to these resorts as smaller lesser known places boast just as much charisma and welcoming spirit. Off the Sella Ronda circuit you find resorts such as Cortina, host to the 1956 Winter Olympics, and some extremely daring black runs as well as some much more pleasant blues. Kron Platz is another found on the northeast edge of the Dolomiti Massive. It is almost 100% German speaking due to its proximity to Austria and has all the advantages of a ski resort, spreading out around the base of the main peak from which runs descend every side, but is also located just 10 minutes from a bustling town, Brunico.

Off the beaten track
There are numerous resorts across the Dolomites but if you want to get off the beaten track and really experience the mountain wilderness then I would highly recommend you hire a local guide. You can work with them to create a tailored programme or help you to access some of the more popular ski mountaineering and off-piste locations.

You might also like to combine this with staying in one of the Dolomite’s many mountain huts. At the top of the most famous run in the Dolomites, Armentarola, sits the Rifugio Lagazuoi, which is open throughout the summer and winter season and sits firmly in the centre of the famous World War Tour. The Dolomites saw front line action during the First World War and still bear the scars and remains of cold battles fought between sides in the high mountain passes. (Right: snowshoeing close to Arabba; photo: Lucy Bruzzone)

The World War Tour covers over 80km of pistes and visits strategic locations from the war days. The most exciting part of this tour is of course the end of the Armentarola run where a horse drawn rope tow will assist your return to the steeper slopes. This tour can be undertaken in one day, by following the pistes and using lifts, but for that truly green and out of the way experience a local guide will allow you to experience the more remote areas of the tour combined with staying in the various fantastic mountain huts on route.

There is something quite magical about remaining high on the mountain when everyone else disappears back to their hotels leaving you to enjoy the sun setting behind the sharp peaks a hearty meal and warm bed.

Culinary specialities
Many of the refuges across the Dolomites are famed for their food. Some also remain open to diners in the evening and offer you the opportunity to travel up to them for an evening meal. You might choose to stay up after the lifts close or enjoy an evening ski or snowshoe tour up to them before a hearty meal and a descent back down the valley at night by sledge. Scoiattoli and Averau refuges are two of these, both of which also offer accommodation.

Alternatives to downhill skiing
If downhill skiing or ski mountaineering isn’t for you then there are plenty of snowshoe options with a number of companies and refuges arranging specific snowshoe tours. A good place to start looking is www.dolomiti.org/dengl/Cortina/laga5torri/ospitalita/index.html. The Gallina Ridge Refuge and the La Baita Restaurant and Hotel organise specific tours for their guests and Colletts Mountain Holidays run regular snowshoe trips around the Dolomites. There are also a number of cross-country skiing circuits, including extensive trails around Cortina, Corvara and Dobbiaco. In areas where cross-country skiing is offered it is easy to hire the required equipment so even if this is not your primary activity you can always give it a go.

Helping you plan those off the beaten track excursions
Cortina Alpine Guides are happy to be contacted directly and work with you to create that perfect holiday. Many of the local ski schools can also offer ski touring and off-piste experiences although they may not advertise this in their main brochure. And of course our friendly guide Filippo Beccari and his colleague Francesco Tremolada can be contacted via www.proguide.it. I have also recently discovered DolomitiSport a website dedicated to mountain athletes looking for inspiration. It is full information on ski mountaineering races and those hidden gems that you can only reach with a guide and lots of experience.

See the full list of Winter holidays featured on greentraveller.

See also the following articles by greentraveller's founder, Richard Hammond:
Europe's greenest ski lodges
The Responsible Traveller column: responsible skiing

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